Being more than a little bit fond of the Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg series I was very annoyed with myself when I got a bit behind with the releases and had to make an effort to catch up. Poor me. So tragic. Having to spend some time with one of my favourite, eccentric detectives and the rest of his team of mildly odd compatriots.
THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK sees Adamsberg team pretty well settled, so the introduction of any new lieutenant could be complicated. Louis Veyrenc is even more disruptive, with his tendency to speak in verse (twelve-syllable alexandrines to be accurate), to say nothing of his oddly striped hair and his deeply held, childhood grudge against Adamsberg. Which grudge Adamsberg is pretty well oblivious to until slapped over the head with the evidence. He's somewhat preoccupied by the return into his life of old nemesis Ariane Legarde, pathologist, and Adamsberg enemy since he questioned her conclusions in a case twenty-three years earlier. But there are crimes at the centre of this book and typically baffling at that. You can only guess at what the connection could be between the ritual killing of stags in the hills of Normandy, two local "lads" found murdered after raiding the graves of recently deceased spinsters, and the escape from prison of a seventy-five-year old multiple killer nurse that Adamsberg has dealt with before.
Needless to say THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK has a wonderful feeling of the Gothic about it. Odd glimpses of shadowy figures creeping around graveyards; curses past and present; places with strange histories; things going bump in the night in Adamsberg's new house; childhood grudges; deeply held beliefs; long enmities and friction. Lots and lots of friction. All of action swirls around Adamsberg as he sort of floats through life. He's more a cerebral than rush around detective, prone to leaps of faith and acute observations - his odd behaviour is no longer regarded as anything out of the ordinary by a team which kind of specialises in odd behaviour. But this team is also capable of immense kindness, understanding and support for each other - they are the perfect group to spend time with if you like things just that little bit batty.
If you're not aware of this series - Fred Vargas is the pen name of Frédérique Audouin-Rouzeau, French medievalist and archaeologist. Vargas, as of THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK a twice winner of the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger award, is translated by Siân Reynolds who does a sterling job at translating the language but keeping the overall feel and quirkiness of the books.
Just a quick word of warning - I rather like a series where it doesn't matter if you get them all out of order. In the main I've read the Adamsberg books all over the place but in this case, with the next book AN UNCERTAIN PLACE out already, you'd really be best to read THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK first. Without this, earlier, book I suspect a reader could get bamboozled otherwise as there's a lot of setup for AN UNCERTAIN PLACE in THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK.
Needless to say I just love these books. But really - don't read them if you're looking for precise behaviour, keen logic, rules and regulations being followed, and no idiosyncrasies. Do read them if you're looking for humour, darkness, quirky, a hugely entertaining police procedurals... well police scenarios. Let's go with that...